Both Dow Jones CEO and Wall Street Journal publisher Les Hinton and former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks have resigned. The resignations come as lawmakers probe phone hacking allegations.
The rising heat which led to the resignations can be seen as a somewhat disingenuous swipe at News Corp, with politicians around the world forming queues to take positions on the phone hacking saga. Rupert Murdoch has been in damage control, trying to minimize the damage and retracting News Corp’s bid for BSkyB, but as a PR exercise, it’s looking as though the news giant is outnumbered in terms of press releases and breaking stories.
The Murdochs and other News Corp executives are now on the receiving end of the tabloid-style frenzy of paparazzi and mobs of reporters in the UK. The irony isn’t likely to be lost on anyone that the world’s biggest tabloid publishers are getting a pretty strong dose of their own media’s techniques. What’s debatable, however, is whether the frenzy isn’t lowering the tone of the investigations.
US lawmakers have suddenly come to life on the subject of possible 911 victims’ phone hacking, ten years after the event. Is this credible? The original phone hacking charges and allegations were made about 5 years ago, and there wasn’t a squeak out of Washington, or anywhere else. In Australia, News Corp boss John Hartigan has stated that he intends to investigate payments made to contributors, using the audit trail on accounts to identify any possible payments to PIs or other potentially dubious sources.
Nice to see so much conscientiousness after the events, isn’t it? A scenario not being mentioned in the News of the World saga is one that most employees will recognize- What the boss doesn’t know, the boss can’t do anything about. The phone hacking in the UK seems to have had a strong element of “racket” about it, employing some pretty sleazy characters whose dedication to news values would be non-existent or less.
The Murdochs own and run News Corp. They are, ultimately, responsible for the actions of their newspapers. That said, the idea that Rupert Murdoch woke up one morning and decided to authorize operations which could best be described as corporate suicide doesn’t seem very likely. He took a news organization the size of a small town paper and turned it in to News Corp. He’s also the son of Keith Murdoch, who was perhaps one of the first truly modern investigative journalists of the 20th century. Rupert knows his way around the business, and knows as well as anyone what not to do.
It’s not exactly unknown, either, that middle managers and their cronies have a tendency to set up their own empires within large organizations. Could the Murdochs have been fully aware of the phone hacking operations? Would anyone have told them that their papers were breaking a lot of laws? Put it this way- If you were a News Corp executive, would you just ring Rupert and say “Oh, yeah, by the way, we’ve been spending a decade exposing the corporation to unlimited lawsuits, thought you’d like to know,”?
The phone hacks were truly despicable, unforgivable, intrusions on the lives and deaths of defenceless people. It’s in the best interests of global media and journalism to pin down the laws and create an environment where these atrocities are no longer possible. Let’s not lose sight of the real issues.
Let’s also not lose sight of the fact that News Corp, politics and bizarre FOX commentators notwithstanding, happens to be in a good position to provide a lot of valuable information which can help eradicate these sleazebags from global media and identify corrupt officials like bribe-taking UK police and other disposable objects. The laws are the big picture here, not the Murdochs.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com